Black Book movie poster
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Black Book movie poster

Black Book Movie Review

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Zwartboek, known as Black Book in English, is the most expensive film ever made in the Netherlands and was also one of nine final contenders to be selected for last year's Oscars. The money was a good investment.

Black Book is set in Nazi-occupied Holland and follows a young Jewish woman named Rachel (Carice van Houten) who is forced to go underground after the Nazis murder her entire family. Determined to find the people responsible and seek revenge, she joins the resistance and infiltrates the enemy, seducing an SS officer (Sebastian Koch) in the process. As she gets deeper and deeper involved, however, the danger grows and loyalties are questioned.

The film succeeds with great acting, a solid screenplay and a flowing story that never loses its pace. Paul Verhoeven, who has directed such films as Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers, Showgirls and Hollow Man, has finally delivered his first good movie in fifteen years. While I wouldn't call Black Book a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, I can't really think of many, if any, flaws in the picture. The movie is almost consistently tense and, especially in the last act, there are several developments that keep you wondering what could possibly happen next to this poor woman.

If I were to complain about anything, it would be that the movie is a bit too glossy for its own good. Perhaps I've gotten used to Saving Private Ryan war dramas, and Black Book is certainly nothing like that movie (there are no actual war sequences), but had the movie had a grittier look it could have been all the better. Still, this is a minor complaint, and Black Book still looks great, especially considering its budget.

There is also one scene at the end which seemed extremely strange and not quite real, and, indeed, the execution that is carried out would more than likely not have happened in real life. This shocking moment near the end seemed like a convenient way to hit the audience hard with an emotional death, and now knowing for sure that it probably wouldn't have happened, it's a little surprising that Verhoeven would have chosen to damage the integrity of his film in such a way.

That being said, Black Book is still a great movie. It isn't a masterpiece, but it is one of the better movies of the year (I'll call it 2007, since it was released in the United States this year). Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys movies set during World War II.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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